In its second year, The Other Room’s Young Artists Festival brings together actors, writers, directors and stage managers to produce a series of innovative theatre productions. These short commissions allow the chance for young artists to form their own theatre companies for the real experience of working on the fringe. In this series we will hear testimonies from five individuals as they challenge themselves to produce a performance after a gruelling week. First up is Holly Fry.
What. A. Week.
The outpouring of talent, commitment, passion and support at this year’s Festival has been astounding: from the writers, actors, directors, stage management team and all working at The Other Room Theatre, we became a family.
I came into the project being very hesitant and unsure about my writing. Having kept my script in a drawer for most of the year, and after continuously looking back over it, I decided that I really wanted to make a start on it. The Young Artist’s Festival seemed like a perfect opportunity.
Being an actress with very little writing experience, I initially applied for both the acting and writer’s course. After hearing the news that I was invited to audition for the actor’s course, I shrugged off the writing, thinking it must have been a bit rubbish as I hadn’t heard back.
Meeting Ben and TOR Team at my audition, they became very inquisitive about my writing; asking lots of questions as to why I wanted to write about my chosen subject. Lots of great discussion passed until Ben announced ‘I think the writing course is best suited for you. Congratulations, see you on the 11th.’ And that was it.
We had some fantastic and very insightful talks at the beginning of the week: Kate Wasserberg and the Team at TOR, Equity, Tamara Harvey from Theatr Clwyd, Emptage Hallet Talent Agency and The Arts Council for Wales. As the week continued, we got split into our assigned writing, acting and directing groups for further talks and workshops. We were lucky to have a writer’s workshop with actor and playwright Matthew Bulgo, who continued to support and develop our ideas throughout the week. Welsh playwright Alun Saunders also gave a talk, and offered invaluable advice on his experiences as a writer. Our final workshop was with Welsh playwright Gary Owen. With my play featuring a young working class woman from Cardiff, I was keen to pick Gary’s brains on his writing style and how he developed; having written so many excellent plays with young, powerfully written, Welsh women.
With workshops done, the actors, directors and stage management team then got to work on their scripts written specifically for the festival by top playwrights from around the UK. Meanwhile the writers from the programme (Emily Garside, Dai Hill, Susan Monkton, Lawrence Quilty and I) sat at the Theatre Bar, working on our plays. Lots of sweets, tea, chats about Danny Dyer and “I haven’t written anything!” followed. Very early mornings and late nights, several redrafts and cuts later, it was Friday: time to hand over our top secret writing to a Director and Team of Actors for them to rehearse; ready for Saturday’s performance to a full audience. I have never felt so precious about my words on a page in my life. It was a very odd feeling handing it out to our team of actors and directors. Is it crap? Does it make sense? Shall I crumple it all up and start again?
To hear your team getting excited about the writing, and to start forming ideas and throwing everything they had to the script and character, was lovely to watch. They all believed in it, and invested in every word. Alongside the audience feedback, it really bolstered my belief that I could do this.
Moving forwards, I really do hope to develop my play further; firstly expanding it into an hour long play. I would look to potentially holding workshops to help look at new ideas within the play, to help it to expand and to breathe new life into it.
The experience has helped me to accept far more opportunities, and to really go for what I’m passionate about: to fuzz out that voice that says you can’t do it. Thanks to TOR, all of whom took part and the speakers, my play is no longer hidden in my drawer-it’s out there!
Kate and Ben’s message for all the participants really struck a chord with me. They said time and time again that “The door is always open for you here.” The encouragement and support they offer is unlimited. I have already had emails from the Writers to meet up, a group has been set up on social media for all participants, and Kate and Ben have already emailed to make sure that we keep up the dialogue to develop the play further. A huge thank you to all who created and took part in 2016’s The Young Artists Festival; I have learnt so much!